Friday, September 26, 2008

Series of studies pinpoint the rural effects of climate change in non-coastal states

Amid debate over whether global warming helped make hurricanes worse, a study says climate change will significantly impact non-coastal areas, costing billions of dollars to a number of U.S. states. The effect of global warming on agriculture, manufacturing, and forestry make rural areas especially at risk, says report by the University of Maryland's Center for Integrative Environmental Research.

"While some of the benefits from climate change may accrue to individual farms or businesses, the cost of dealing with adverse climate impacts are typically borne by society as a whole," the report says. "These costs to society will not be uniformly distributed but felt most among small businesses and farms, the elderly and socially marginalized groups."

Researchers studied the impact of global warming in 12 states. So far, they have published the results from eight. They say, for example, that higher temperatures in Appalachian North Carolina reduced livestock yields by about 10 percent. In Tennessee, new migratory patterns for birds would affect the hunting industry, which "contributes more than half a billion dollars each year to the state's economy." In North Dakota, the worst drought in its history, in 2000-06, "strained water supplies, directly affected hydropower production, and contributed to the worst fire season on record. The drought also damaged transportation infrastructure -- for example, cracked streets, driveways and sidewalks."

Researchers say that the study underscores the need for immediate action. "Some of the climate changes have already been set in motion and these will create economic effects," says center director Matthias Ruth, "but inaction or delay will only worsen the situation." (Read more)

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